Below the Fold

Colin Kaepernick warms up on the field.

Taking A Knee: The Protests Spread

It started with Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback who played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. To protest what he saw as oppression of people of color, he refused to stand for the National Anthem before his NFL games. His symbolic expression of dissent spread to other players and continued into the 2017 season, exploding into fiery controversy when President Donald Trump urged the NFL and its owners to fire players who refused to honor the National Anthem. The practice of taking a knee even spread to high school football players. Does the First Amendment protect the players when they refuse to stand for the National Anthem? And how does taking a knee fit into America’s history of political protest? We provide historical perspective in From Liberty Tree to Taking a Knee: America’s Founding Era Sheds Light on the NFL Controversy.

December 13, 2017 Below the Fold, Speech, Symbolic Speech
United States Supreme Court Building

Welcome to First Amendment Watch

Recognizing that freedom of speech and press are covered in every news cycle, we have launched First Amendment Watch (FirstAmendmentWatch.org) —an online resource that goes beyond the headlines to provide much-needed coverage and context to the debate over freedom of expression. We document contemporary threats to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and petition, posting stories as they arise along with[Read More…]

December 12, 2017 Below the Fold
Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center of Newseum Institute

Gene Policinski Commentary: Two Wrongs Do Not Make A ‘Right’ — But They Can Misuse One

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Gene Policinski, originally published this commentary on the Newseum blog, and has given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint. ___________________________________________________________________ Didn’t we all learn, long ago, that “two wrongs don’t make a right”? But two wrongs can misuse a right — as in our right to free expression, guaranteed by the First Amendment. First,[Read More…]

December 11, 2017 Below the Fold, Fake News, Threats
President Trump, Other Elected Officials Block ‘Disliked’ Twitter Followers

President Trump, Other Elected Officials Block ‘Disliked’ Twitter Followers

Can public officials block followers on social media platforms because they don’t like what they are hearing?

November 26, 2017 Access, Below the Fold, News Gathering
The Alarming Rise in Verbal and Physical Threats to the Press

The Alarming Rise in Verbal and Physical Threats to the Press

Many presidents have had contentious relationships with the press. President John Adams’ 1798 Sedition Act made publishing anything critical of the government illegal, President Theodore Roosevelt tried to sue the press for unfavorable coverage and other leaders have tried to control the flow of information. However, the animosity towards the press fostered by President Donald Trump many believe is unprecedented.

November 14, 2017 Below the Fold, Leaks, Threats
First Amendment: By the Numbers

First Amendment: By the Numbers

With controversies swirling daily about the freedom of speech and press, what is the state of public support for the First Amendment? Several nonprofit organizations—the Newseum First Amendment Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Knight Foundation—conduct surveys of public attitudes about the freedom of expression. Most recently, the Newseum Institute has also initiated a First Amendment Report Card, enlisting a[Read More…]

A liberty tree with effigies.

From Liberty Tree to Taking a Knee: America’s Founding Era Sheds Light on the NFL Controversy

Symbolic speech as a form of protest, like taking a knee at a football game while others stand for the National Anthem, enjoys a long history in America. It’s been a powerful form of political expression going back to the protests in the colonies in the 1760s against British oppression. Various forms of symbolic expression—liberty trees, liberty poles, effigies of hated politicians, even the use of the number 45—brought multitudes into the political sphere and was critical in building opposition to British rule. Much of this symbolic expression was controversial and even offensive but a powerful form of protest then and now.

November 5, 2017 Assembly, Below the Fold, Speech, Symbolic Speech
Lessons from Berkeley on Campus Free Speech

Lessons from Berkeley on Campus Free Speech

Free-speech watchdog FIRE’s mission is more important than ever on the nation’s college campuses.

November 5, 2017 Below the Fold, Campus Speech, Speech
Gene Policinski, Chief Operating Officer, Newseum Institute and First Amendment Center of Newseum Institute

Gene Policinski Commentary – To Trump On NBC ‘License’ Tweet: NO!

The Newseum Institute’s First Amendment expert, Gene Policinski, originally published this commentary on the Newseum blog, and have given First Amendment Watch permission to reprint. There’s only one appropriate, spirit-of-freedom response to the “Trump tweet” on Wednesday asking when it’s “appropriate” for the government to punish NBC News for a story the president didn’t like: NEVER. And yes, the repetition of “appropriate” and[Read More…]

October 12, 2017 Below the Fold, News Gathering, Threats
J3NE4D Ohio, USA. 19th Apr, 2017. Robert Murray, the 77-year-old founder and CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, talks in his office in St. Clairsville in Ohio, United States, 19 April 2017. The coal industry in the state has set its hopes on president Donald Trump and fracking. Photo: Andreas Hoenig/dpa/Alamy Live News

Defamation Suit By Coal Baron Against John Oliver Gets Green Light to Proceed

Coal magnate Robert Murray has a long history of suing the media – at least nine organizations at last count. His latest targets: HBO’s John Oliver and The New York Times. He claims that both misrepresented safety at his coal mines and attacked him personally. He even asked for an emergency “gag order” against rebroadcast of Oliver’s segment arguing it was hurting[Read More…]

September 22, 2017 Below the Fold, Libel, Privacy, Speech